Alberto Lievore and Jeannette Altherr have continued to shape the Arper vision through their iconic collections like Leaf, Catifa, and most recently, Arcos. Here, the Barcelona-based designers share their newest collection, Paravan.
How would you describe the gesture of Paravan?
Paravan is softly sculpted — it is a balance between a focal point and a quiet background.
How did the design of Paravan evolve?
When we began designing Paravan, we had in mind contexts that would need a softer, more discrete solution to defining space. For these situations, we would need to create something basic and adaptable, but not completely visually anonymous. We created Paravan as a solution to organizing space that could accommodate many different types of contexts.
For what environments was Paravan created?
Paravan works well with all Arper collections, holding the different pieces together with a unified background. Just as Parentesit, Paravan is sound absorbing, and gives both an acoustic and visual focus to a space. The different assembling elements allow for endless compositions, from open, large walls or space dividers, to enclosed or partially-enclosed areas where more privacy is needed. We also included the option for a little shelf or a coat hanger. Other functions are under development. Because Paravan is aesthetically quiet and adaptable, it is well suited to both work and hospitality situations, which is a characteristic quality of all Arper collections. When designing Paravan, we had in mind its use for meeting, working, or lounging areas of offices, for a phone booth of a hotel or office, or a space divider for a hotel or restaurant.
Were there particular sculptors or architects you were looking at in the process of designing Paravan?
We like the quiet yet strong gesture of Richard Serra’s sculptures. Although, architecture was an equal source of inspiration. Years ago we were lucky to visit Luis Barragán’s houses in Mexico City. We were deeply touched by the emotional power of color on the walls he used — very unusual colors like pink, yellow, bright red, blue. Surprisingly, they did not feel artificial, but natural because of the texture of the walls. Fabric can have a similar feel in terms of surface: textured, rich, warm.
Color is very important to us. Unlike other programs in the market that have a restrained palette of finishes, the Paravan collection can be upholstered in almost all fabrics of the Arper catalogue. This opens an incredible range of possibilities in terms of colors. We’ve explored color from different perspectives with Saya, Kinesit and the Catifa New Editions, but a big surface such as a space divider like Paravan creates a different scale and impact.
How has color influenced your design aesthetic and practice?
Color is a something we have always been interested in. However, as industrial designers color isn’t part of your education, and in practice you don’t have a lot of influence on the colors of the product you design. Upholstered pieces can be customized by the customer to suit their environment. For this reason, in Industrial Design, color was thought to be more of a Marketing consideration.
With Catifa, things evolved. We discovered that a chair in a full color looks completely different when compared to one with a white front. Changes in proportion, texture, and shape create entirely different compositions. There is an interaction of color and shape that can’t be denied. That was a big AHA! moment. With the support of Arper and especially from Claudio Feltrin, the owner of the company, we began to view color differently. Color is more then just marketing. It is design. From there, color became an important characteristic of many Arper collections: Saya, Duna, Kinesit, Catifa New Editions (which was only and completely about a revision of color), and Arcos last year. People started to refer to Arper as “the brand with the beautiful, special colors” which was evident in our designs, but also in our photography and booth creative execution.
What does color mean to you?
Musicians speak sometimes about the “colors and textures” of music. This is something we understand completely. Just as music, color affects us emotionally. Color is an experience, not intellect. Therefore we are not interested in color theory or color wheels, nor do we believe in color trends. We think the challenge of using color, and the lack of education we have around color, makes people tend to go for neutral tones. It is easier to fail with color then with no-colors.
How do you recommend using color with Paravan?
While it seems easy to choose a color, it is much more difficult to apply it and to combine it with furniture and the elements of the architecture. We developed a few principles to help navigate the use of color with Paravan. First, decide who should be the protagonist — the elements of the architecture, the furniture, or a single expression of both? Second, define a mood you’re trying to create. And third, have a clear concept on how you’d like to use color in the Paravan modules: gradient, color block, partial color block, or play with several shades of the same tone to get a vivid yet controlled composition.